Mall Madness: Part One

Author's Note: This story is no longer considered Gemlord canon. However, I'm keeping it posted because it's a mildly amusing story. This is a fusion of my fanfic universe with the fanfic universe of an online friend of mine.

He made a striking figure as he strode through the mall, head lowered, silver-gray eyes focused on the shiny tiled floor, hands shoved into the pockets of his black denim jeans. Tall, lean, athletic, he moved with an easy, fluid grace, black boots softly clicking on the flooring as he walked. A frown crossed his beautifully handsome face. Beneath his teal-blue T-shirt, the glittering jewel suspended from a medium-length platinum chain around his neck kept tugging him forward. "Yeah, yeah, I know," he muttered to the light-blue, faceted gem. "I'm getting there."

Unknown to him, a pair of large, violet-blue eyes watched his every move. The woman they belonged to was, quite simply, gorgeous. Slender and willowy, dressed in indigo jeans, black high-heeled boots and a sky-blue tank-top, she slinked along sensuously, intent on following the tall man in the black leather jacket.

His hair color had been what grabbed her attention. A shimmering platinum blond with a decidedly pale-blue cast, its slightly wavy locks pulled back in a ponytail that fell midway down his back, it was quite unusual compared to the rest of his pathetic race. She couldn't help but think about how similar the human's startling mane was to her beloved Kunzite's. The woman scowled. Thoughts of the silver-haired Gemlord still hurt, even though she'd found someone very interested in herself.

The tugging sensation from the jewel continued to strengthen, as it had been doing for a number of minutes. Fighting back a rising tide of nervousness as he realized just how close the source of the pull was getting, he asked himself, Wonder who it is that's going to show? the feeling in the pit of his stomach equal parts of hope and dread. It's been so long . . .

Damn it, hold still long enough for me to get a read on you, the woman complained, glancing down at the faintly glimmering stone prism cradled in the palm of a slender, long-nailed hand. Though it had been the male human's pale-blue hair that had snagged her interest, it had been the subtle aura of power he emitted that had kept it. Having come to the Earth in this reality fully intending to goof off, she was well aware that she was actually supposed to be doing a job. At least this way, she could return home and honestly say that she had been doing as she'd been bidden.

Still walking along in the midst of the crowd of shoppers, eyes continuing to scan the floor, the young man suddenly felt whatever it was attracting the Star Stone right there. Glancing up and to his right, his silver-gray gaze focused on a pair of women. His heart skipped a beat when he realized it was them both.

Tall and taller, each female possessed a distinctive beauty that was remarkable; despite the aura of psychic confusion that surrounded them, he saw that they both looked almost exactly like they had long ago. Fire and ice. The contrast was just as startling as he'd always found it. The taller of the two--and the one in the lead as they walked toward him--was calm, cool, with pale skin, a glorious mane of knee-length, iridescent-black and intelligent, ice-blue eyes. Her slightly shorter, athletic companion--who was lagging behind a bit--was a restless powerhouse with glittering ringlets of dark-flame-colored hair that fell to her shoulders and expressive, dark-jade-green eyes. Seeing them both there, actually in the flesh, made the blue-haired man abruptly mentally freeze up. Rattled, he kept walking, passing them.

Behind him, the slender female--whose unruly cloud of golden-blond wavy hair was somewhat tamed by being pulled back at the nape of her neck in a nearly waist-length ponytail--remained focused on the thin, black stone in her hand. She was about to look up and make sure her quarry was still in sight when a very solid form collided with her. A vicious Why don't you damn well watch where you're going? springing mind as she raised her head, the sensuous blond found herself staring into deep-green eyes that belonged to a pretty woman with curly, dark-crimson hair. For some reason, as she vaguely heard the other person's quiet apology, the stinging retort faded away. Then the blond remembered what she was doing; sidestepping the redhead that had walked into her, she resumed following the tall man.

"Oh, settle down," the man with the pale-blue ponytail growled softly at the jeweled pendant that felt like it was trying to push its way right through him as he continued striding onward. "I know they're back there. Give me a few to gather my courage. This is going to be harder than I thought." Sighing, he finally came to a stop, pausing to stare into a storefront window. Finding it to be an electronics boutique, a number of television sets lining a nearby wall, his fog-colored eyes narrowed slightly as he realized that the numerous idiot boxes were showing once again the fuzzy footage of energy flashes, frantic movement and finally of a high-jumping Native American emerging from the trashed Denny's restaurant with a pair of rather familiar figures. Come on, Jayce, get a grip. This is the whole reason why you came here, to find them. True, it's going to make a number of waves, but it's better than being alone.

Ah, good! the blond woman thought, seeing her quarry stop. Now to get that reading . . . Staring down at the pointy-ended prism, she focused her concentration on the ebony stone. In response, a gentle aquamarine light glimmered within it, but not nearly as bright as she'd been hoping. Frowning prettily in disappointment, she sighed. Seems to be a Terran with a few extra abilities, but not what I'm looking for. Well, that answers that. Sliding the Dark Crystal into her jeans pocket, the slender woman with the blond ponytail spun on a dainty foot and headed off in the direction of the food court. Hell, Zoisite, she told herself, you may as well go have fun. And right now, a big, juicy steak sandwich sounds like heaven. Giggling slightly, she picked up her pace, high-heeled boots tapping out her impatient rhythm on the mall floor.

Jayce was about to tear his silver-gray eyes away from the televisions and try contacting the other artifact bearers again when he suddenly realized there was a reason why that footage was being shown again. What the--!? His attention captured, he dashed into the store, hoping the audio would give him more information. I hope that's not what I think it is . . .

With a sigh of pleasure, Zoisite sat down in the white plastic seat, her lunch looking absolutely delicious. A nice, big, mouthwatering steak sandwich, a pile of thick-cut french fries and a large diet soda sat on the round table before her. Grinning in anticipation, she picked up the sandwich, took a healthy bite, then softly moaned deep in her throat. Hmmm . . . Cosmos, that's wonderful. Swallowing that and taking another bite, the female Gemlord idly scanned the gathering of humans around her with something less than any interest at all. Then her violet-blue eyes focused on a certain person, and her gaze froze. Realizing that it was the same curly-haired redhead that had rammed into her, Zoisite set her sandwich down and munched on a fry, still staring at the woman. For some oddball reason, the sight of the stranger made the Gemlord's thoughts turn to her reasons for wanting a day off.

Kunzite had dumped her. After over a thousand years as lovers, the magnificent, silver-haired warrior had told her that that aspect of their relationship was over. Once more, she felt tears well up in her large, long-lashed eyes; the rejection and resentment she'd gotten from him still hurt, even now. Clamping down on her desolate sorrow, she picked up her soda and took a long sip, still staring at the other woman.

Letting loose with an irritated sigh, the dark-flame-haired female Zoisite was gazing at glanced sidelong at her companion. "I wish they'd hurry up. The Dagger's driving me nuts."

The ebony-haired woman smiled in slight amusement. "You know they're coming as fast as they can, Blaze."

"Yeah, I know," the redhead sighed. Going back to scanning the crowd that was enjoying a pleasant lunch despite knowing that whatever it was attracting the wicked blade that was the focus of her power hadn't moved for a few minutes, she added, "Still, I'd rather be getting to the bottom of this right now, Crystal."

The other woman only smiled more in response, her ice-blue gaze going on to sweep the hustle and bustle that filled the food court. Focusing on a lone female--a gorgeous blond apparently enjoying lunch--who seemed to be staring at them, Crystal murmured, "Anyone you know?"

Glancing over at where her compatriot indicated, Blaze frowned. "Haven't a clue, other than accidentally bumping into her a bit ago. She didn't seem upset then. No reason for her to be mad now."

The ebony-haired female didn't reply. Instead, she merely continued to surreptitiously gaze at the blond staring in their direction.

Zoisite sighed as she set the soda down and thoughtfully munched on another fry. Though still looking at the table with the other two women, she was now gazing through them at a far-off point as she continued her melancholy train of thought. In desperation at losing the love of her life, for whom she'd risked everything and had joined the Negaverse to have as her own, she'd looked for some way to get Kunzite back. Then came Garnet, seemingly back from the dead.

The redheaded spy had long had a close relationship with the Water Warrior--before the Negaverse, they had considered one another as siblings, two parts of an almost inseparable foursome. And he was able and willing to step into that void. Though still yearning for the dashing and elegant Fire Warrior, she and her former brother now lover had settled into something comfortable, if not what either one truly wanted. The Negaforce-amplified need for Kunzite still clawed at her, and Garnet was still haunted by the memory of the missing Tanzanite.

Tanzie. She would always be in his thoughts. No matter what Zoisite did, deep down inside, her violet-eyed brother would always see something of Tanzie within herself.

Scowling, Zoisite's violet-blue eyes finally flicked back down to her lunch, and she grabbed the sandwich again. Sinking her teeth into the juicy beef, she mentally growled. Garnet wouldn't--couldn't--give her everything she needed. Granted, there were very few who could handle her particular situation in the first place, so she often found herself in a position of only getting certain forms of affection and not expecting more. Normally, that would be quite all right with the Western Commander, but combine that with her current lover's heartfelt wish for someone else and the situation became a wearying one.

Then there was also Lord Obsidian, having sunk into a deep depression following the abandonment of his plans. Things remained tense among the small band of living Gemlords and the Guardian of Space, with Lord Obsidian keeping mostly to his quarters in a sort of self-imposed exile. That he had contacted her long enough to give her this somewhat mysterious mission still continued to surprise her.

With the dark atmosphere seeming to surround the Tower weighing heavily on her mind, Zoisite had jumped at the chance to go through the Vortex Mirror to this reality, eager to try to show Lord Obsidian that they understood what had happened, were still supportive of him and that she, at least, was still a willing follower of the Guardian of Space. However, I also plan on taking it easy and enjoying myself while I'm here, she thought, swallowing her food.

"Then again, could be wrong," Blaze muttered, watching the stranger with the wavy, golden-blond ponytail finally turn her attention to her meal with an expression of cold rage on her beautful face as she took a bite out of her sandwich.

Crystal nodded as both women began to scan the food court once more. "Something seems to be bugging her."

Before the pair of females could speculate further, a piercing scream slashed through the noisy murmur of the crowd. As one, Crystal and Blaze both sprang to their feet and looked in the direction of the sound. Nearby, Zoisite calmly took another bite of her meal, apparently unaffected by the terrified sound.

"What the hell!?" the crimson-curled woman blurted, dark-jade eyes searching for the source of the scream.

"Sounds like trouble, whatever it is," her ebony-haired companion replied, carefully scanning the area for a disturbance of any sort.

They didn't have long to wait. With a crash and a smash, the reason for the now continuous sounds of shock and fear came thundering into the food court from the main concourse of the mall.

Bugs. A small swarm of them. Roughly human-sized and -shaped, the intruders half-sprinted, half-levitated on a pair of chitinous legs, four arm-like limbs terminating in thin but wicked-looking claws waving in the air as they scattered into the food court. Mandibles clacking excitedly, the fluorescent lighting of the shopping center reflecting off the many facets of their compound eyes, the insectoids rapidly fanned out, sending the mall's customers into a panic.

"Hell," Blaze muttered, reaching behind her into that small pocket of extra-dimensional space she was always able to access. "I'm sick of playing Orkin Man."

"Let's go, before someone gets seriously hurt," Crystal responded. Her next words were full of icy power. "Polaris Stellar Essence Transform!"

The redhead's answering shout held the echos of fire and molten metal. "Callisto Stellar Essence Transform!"

The twin triggers, followed by the sudden flare of energetic auras, caught Zoisite's attention. More Senshi. Figures. I swear, there're new ones crawling out of the woodwork nearly every day. Polaris and Callisto, ne? Again, not what I'm looking for. Setting her food down, the slender Gemlord continued to watch the metamorphosis, her psychic senses cutting through the confusion magic surrounding such beings.

A frigid swirl of wind surrounded Crystal, making her glorious raven-colored locks dance around her tall form as a shimmering pendant shaped like an eight-pointed star rose into the air above her, its glimmering rays of light wrapping around her, solidifying into a white bodysuit accented by ice-blue elbow-length gloves, knee-high boots, shoulder guards and a belt around her waist. The glowing star, now with a bright ray of silver light emerging from each side, streaked to the pale-skinned woman's forehead, freezing into a silver circlet, the eight-pointed Icewind Locket in the center, around the brow of Sailor Polaris, Warrior of the North Star.

In startling contrast, fiery rays of red and gold, reflected from the unearthly shine of the blade of Blaze's upraised Dagger, surrounded the redhead's athletic body. Flowing together, the hot, liquid light cooled into a flame-red bodysuit with shimmering gold knee-high boots, elbow-length gloves, shoulder pauldrons and a belt. A single stray streak of quicksilver flared on her forehead, becoming a silver circlet that glimmered beneath Sailor Callisto's dark-fire curls. Rather than sticking the hilt of the eerily-polished Mirror Dagger onto the golden belt at her waist, as was normal, the red- and gold-clad Sailor Soldier kept the wicked blade in her fist.

The golden-blond female still sitting at her nearby table idly munched on a fry. Why do they insist on such ostentatious displays when they change? Zoisite asked herself, eyes fastening on the oddball gleam of silver in the midst of Callisto's fiery outfit. Someone oughta tell her that that really clashes . . .

Insectoids were attacking the town. Jayce stood there, eyes glued to the television as live coverage of the local police and SWAT teams showed them doing their best to contain a swarm of quick, slender, vaguely human-like bugs happily vandalizing anything in their clawed, four-armed reach. He watched with a slight frown as one of the insectoids, jumping up and down on some hapless woman's car, was tackled and brought under control by a group of blue-uniformed police. One small victory in the midst of chaos. Not exactly what I'd call a fair fight. I know it's not my town, but maybe I should lend a hand? Turning away from the panicked scenes, the tall, bluish-haired man hurried out of the electronics boutique. The moment he emerged into the main concourse of the mall, he accidentally collided into a very solid body. Catching himself, an apology springing to his lips, he looked forward--then froze a moment, fog-colored eyes wide in surprise.

He found himself staring into a pair of faceted, compound eyes. The fact that it was a bug was startling enough. The further realization that it was peering back at him through the leg-holes of a pair of frilly women's panties stretched over its head was downright bizarre. You've got to be kidding me, Jayce thought, not sure if he should fight or laugh.

The handsome man quickly received an answer. Mandibles clacking, the insectoid swiped with both right arms. Leaping away to dodge the clawed blow, the ponytailed male maneuvered into a more advantageous position, then punched the bug hard in one panty-lined compound eye. The gracile insect staggered back a step, only to catch a vicious boot in the thorax as Jayce followed through with a second attack. The chittering insect fell to the floor, sliding a short distance on the polished tiles. Knowing that the confusion factor would hold, keeping his identity safe from everyone else, the pale-blue-haired holder of the Star Stone called out his transformation sequence, "Sirius Stellar Essence Transform!"

In response, the glimmering jewel at his throat turned into a shining point of starlight as it rose into the air. Scintillating beams of silvery-blue radiance swirled around him, ruffling his shiny hair as it coalesced into a sky-blue body suit accented by metallic silver knee-high boots, elbow-length gloves and a belt around his waist with an enamelled buckle comprised of an Egyptian-looking five-pointed star on a turquoise background. More starlight draped around his tall form, becoming a nearly floor-length cape of turquoise-bordered metallic silver fastened at his right shoulder by a brooch that matched his belt buckle. Then the glimmering point of silvery-blue light attached itself to his forehead, fading away into a silver circlet upon which the faceted jewel called the Star Stone was set. Silver-gray eyes focusing on the insectoid he'd kicked getting up to cause more trouble, Sailor Sirius decided to put a quick end to that. "Sirius Star Laser!"

An aura of soft, silvery-blue starlight gleamed around his outstretched right hand, taking on the shape of a five-pointed star as it appeared. Then an intense beam of light flared from his pointing finger, sizzling into the insect but going no further, neatly bisecting its chiton-covered body. The blue-white laser cut out as the smoking remains of the bug faded away. That threat eliminated, Sirius took a look around, taking stock of the situation.

Mayhem ruled in the food court. Chaos, pure and simple, Zoisite told herself as she calmly sat in her seat, nonchalantly sipping her diet soda as she continued to watch the pair of Senshi deal with the creepy bugs. Thankfully, as the skittering critters' food fight had erupted, most of the terrified humans had cleared the scene. Why does this pathetic race insist on being so bloody loud when they're scared? she asked, her sensuous lips still wrapped around the straw. At least the noise level's dropped some.

The chittering bugs were everywhere. One was happily munching down on huge, soft pretzels from one shop, liquid cheddar cheese dripping down its shiny, armored form from when it had guzzled down a container of the stuff. Over along the other wall, another bug was busily playing pizza frisbee, tossing the round items out into the center of the large, well-lit chamber. Popcorn exploded everywhere as a third insectoid shattered the rinky little cart containing it; a few other bugs started greedily gobbling up the buttered treat while the one responsible for the mess did a head dive into what was left of the popcorn cart. Another of the six-limbed creatures, its body adorned by what looked like a slinky, red lace teddy from a well-known lingerie store jittered around on a table-top, a couple other insects appearing to watch the performance. Zoisite raised an eyebrow at that. Looks like a freaking strip-tease over there . . .

Sailor Polaris gracefully dodged the chair flung her direction, long raven hair flying. Gathering her energy, she concentrated her power. "Polaris Frost Shackle!" A wintery breeze stirred as tendrils of ice suddenly crystallized, creeping up the bug responsible for the missile. Within seconds, the creature was immobilized, a thick layer of ice trapping it within. With a powerful leap, the white-clad warrior slammed her foot into the freeze-dried monster; the insect shattered, pieces of frozen bug skittering along the food court's floor.

The golden-blond Gemlord set her drink down and ate a fry. That had to hurt . . .

Retribution came swiftly to Polaris. A sloppy pizza frisbee slapped into the tall Soldier's chest, leaving a bright stain of tomato sauce on her white bodysuit. She frowned slightly, not impressed.

Over in another direction, Sailor Callisto slashed away with the Mirror Dagger, light glittering everywhere with the movement. Momentarily blinded, her insect target hissed, only to be swiftly dispatched as the flame-haired warrior buried the blade in the chitinous body, then ripped upwards. As the insect creature fell and dissolved away, the fiery Soldier turned just in time to get doused with the contents of a Hi-C drink fountain. "Bloody hell," she growled as she ducked the actual plastic fountain tank that was thrown at her next. Dripping wet with lemonade, she charged the bug that drenched her.

Zoisite absently munched down another thick-cut fry, still gazing at the amusing show around her. The pretty redhead, now somewhat a bit more intriguing with her newly-acquired bedraggled look, slammed a bug into a store counter, then sent it into oblivion with a couple of well-placed slashes from her brilliantly shiny blade. The slender female Gemlord nodded slightly, impressed, then flicked her violet-blue gaze to the other strangely-dressed Senshi. Apparently being pelted with clawed-out scoops of ice cream wasn't the raven-haired warrior's idea of a good time. Zoisite continued to watch as the snowy-clad woman took up a stance, shouted out a trigger--"Polaris Ice Shatter!"--and proceeded to shred the insect sitting on the ice cream shop's counter with a blast of razor-sharp shards of ice. Hmm. Uses something like one of my favorite weapons, the Gemlord grinned, eating another fry.

As the remains of the sliced monster faded into dark mist, Callisto turned, dark-jade eyes scanning for her next opponent. Her gaze focused on an object lying on a countertop nearby just as another of the quick creatures came bounding into her peripheral vision clutching something white over its head. Not wanting to take the time to figure out just what the bug had planned, the curly-haired Soldier leaped across the counter, grabbed the half-pizza the insectoid vandals had managed to miss with her free hand, then spun and smashed it into the approaching bug's ugly face. The creature staggered back under the assault, dropping the plastic chair it had been going to use as a weapon, then crumpled under Callisto's slashing blows.

Still unmolested in her seat despite the chaos around her, Zoisite smoothed back a stray lock of her unruly bangs and picked up her slightly-eaten sandwich. Both elbows resting on the table, her mouth wide open, she was about to take a big bite of it when whoosh, it was gone. She blinked at her empty hands a moment, large eyes larger in surprise, then spun in her chair and looked up. Seeing one of the insect creatures grasping her sandwich in a claw, a look of pure indignation crossed her gorgeous face. "Hey!" she screeched, her strident voice cutting through the food court. "That's mine, you nasty bug! Give it back!"

In reply, the six-limbed monster proceeded to devour the sandwich, then chittered at the golden-blond woman.

At the sound of an enraged feminine voice, both Sailor Soldiers turned and looked in that direction. And came to the same conclusion when they saw the slender woman who'd been staring at them earlier stand up and angrily face down the monster--the female was completely mad. Polaris and Callisto shot one another a glance full of meaning, then simultaneously started hurrying in the blond woman's direction, fully intending to protect the insane person.

But Zoisite's ringing complaint also caught the attention of another of the insectoids. Finding a still-intact and goopy pizza lying around, the other bug picked it up in a clawed hand and slung it expertly at the loud mammalian confronting one of its fellows. The impromptu discus flew gracefully through the food court's air, splatting forcefully in Zoisite's face.

For a timeless moment, all sound seemed to fade away as the pizza slowly slid off the slender Gemlord. The pair of body-suited Senshi paused in their advance, the sudden attack by a food item startling them both. Her beautiful face absolutely livid with rage, cheese and sauce speckling both her fair skin and golden-blond hair, a slice of pepperoni clinging bizarrely to her right over each eye, Zoisite stood there, too angry at the moment to even make a sound. One by one, the pepperoni pieces fell to the floor, uncovering the cold, deadly sparkle in her violet-blue eyes. Then all hell broke loose.

With a snarling screech, the insulted woman made a spectacular leap into the air . . . and continued to hover halfway up to the white-tiled ceiling. Drawing her body together, she started shimmering with a deep-blue aura, her form obscuring. Then she threw herself into a spread-eagled position, the aura fading away, her outfit drastically changed.

The Gemlord was a dark shadow floating in the air. Wearing an all-black uniform trimmed in ultramarine blue reminiscent of her former Negaverse gray and just as ambiguous when it came to her figure--a nearly-floor-length black cape lined in ultramarine and bordered in metallic gold fastened to her jacket by a pair of golden brooches set with large, faceted, violet-blue gems--she cut a magnificent figure as she coldly glared at the bug responsible for her pizza-decorated condition. The violet-blue gem in the center of her golden circlet glittering as bright as the raging fire in her eyes, she thrust out a white-gloved hand, thumb and the first two fingers extended, and shouted, "Zoi!"

A violent blast of wind laden with cherry petals erupted from her palm, the pink blossoms morphing into deadly-sharp ice crystals almost instantly as the shrapnel-bearing telekinetic blast sped to its intended target. With a sickening sound, the shards tore through the pizza-throwing insectoid, turning it into so much dark mist. Then, with a vicious kick from a dainty foot, Zoisite attacked the bug that stole her sandwich. The boot in the face sent the creature flying. The Gemlord followed through by creating a large ice crystal in her hand. Skillfully throwing it like a spear, she transfixed the other monster through the head. That one also faded away. Spinning gracefully in the air, her long cape and golden ponytail swirling dramatically around her, the slender black-clad warrior spotted a small group of insects gathered together, still scarfing on popcorn. "I'm going to get all of you for that!" Zoisite vowed.

Utterly astounded, both women caught completely off guard, Polaris and Callisto just stared in mute amazement as the madwoman jumped into the air and changed. Obviously a warrior of some sort, the ponytailed blond moved with a fluidness that was almost hypnotic. So much so, neither the raven-haired warrior nor the crimson-curled Soldier could tear their eyes away as the dark-uniformed female blasted the one bug to smithereens.

In the next moments, though, Sailor Polaris wasn't given much of a choice. From seemingly nowhere, a nasty little insectoid ran up to the tall, white-clad Senshi, a cream pie of some sort balanced between both arms on one side. Tossing it into the distracted female's face, the bug slashed at Polaris once she'd jumped back and crouched down in reaction to getting pied. Not connecting well enough to gash the raven-haired woman, but still knocking her down, the insectoid pounced on his quarry, making a valiant attempt to throttle her. Disoriented by the cream and the fall, Polaris did her best to throw the bug off.

Meanwhile, Callisto continued to gaze at the blond warrior, her mind only able to focus on a single incoherent sound, Duuuuuuuuh, as she watched the ponytailed female kick then spear the Hiver she'd screamed at originally. The flame-haired Soldier could've stood there, dumfounded, for quite a while longer, but then a strangled sound caught her attention. Polaris's voice, asking, "Mind giving me some help?" Turning and finding a bug pinning down a pie-covered figure, claws at the raven-haired woman's throat, Callisto immediately snapped out of it and concentrated on the fight once again. With a kick that would do any field-goal kicker proud, the red-clad female sent the creature flying with a well-placed golden boot. When her victim smashed into the wall and slid to the floor, Callisto sprinted after it, determined to end its miserable existence.

Grateful for the assist, the white-clad Soldier got to her ice-blue-booted feet. Quickly scraping off the pie--which had turned out to be coconut cream, she couldn't help but notice--she regained her bearings, ready to continue the brawl.

The angry Gemlord continued to float in the air, her gorgeous, pizza-splattered face a mask of rage. "I won't tolerate such insults! Water Elemental--" Her shrill word hung in the atmosphere, promising more to come, as a pair of enormous jets of roaring water suddenly burst into being near the floor, creating first a double-helix and then a full-blown waterspout around the golden-blond warrior's form. Sweeping her hands out then forward, stopping to point at both the group of bugs scarfing popcorn and another group gleefully tossing chairs headed by the teddy-adorned insectoid, Zoisite finished the attack. "Tsunami!" The waterspout, its swirling liquid sped up to a raging fury, split into twin jets that slammed into each set of Hivers with the force of a freight train, continuing on to shatter huge holes in the glass wall that lead outside. Glass shards, water, steel and bugs crushed into pieces exploded outwards, littering the sidewalk and parking lot beyond the food court as Zoisite smirked in satisfaction.

Polaris and Callisto just stared at the destroyed wall, awed and appalled at the other warrior's apparent lack of concern.

"I was afraid of that," sighed the teen-ager as he scrambled out of the Dodge Shadow's front passenger seat. Handsome and friendly-looking, with curly medium-brown hair and expressive green eyes, his entire thin form radiated an aura of worry as he held up a silver necklace and faced towards the mall. Dangling from the chain, a crescent pendant of glittering crystal shone with a rapidly-blinking, internal, blood-red light. "Whatever set off the alarm's in there."

"As is whatever is drawing the artifacts," added a dainty young woman of exotic beauty who emerged from the back seat of the car to stand next to a black-haired, brown-eyed man of slightly stocky build. Tugging lightly at her well-tailored white jacket, she continued, a concerned light in her almond-shaped emerald eyes, "I hope we are not too late to help our comrades, James."

"If we are, there's gonna be hell to pay," vowed the taller of the men as he slammed shut the Shadow's driver's door. Realizing that even out here in the parking lot, not too far past the fire lanes that surrounded the shopping center's structure, he could hear distant sounds of confusion and panic, the ebony-haired male frowned. "Either they're having the sale of the century or someone's causing a huge ruckus."

"Let's go in ready for trouble," James replied, bumping shut the other door. He then held up the moon-shaped crystal, which continued to flash with a ruby-red gleam.

"I'm on it," acknowledged the stocky youth as he stepped back from the vehicle, a wicked-looking, six-foot-long trident of aqua-blue steel suddenly appearing in his hand. He then thrust the three-pronged head into the air as the Asian-appearing woman struck a dramatically graceful pose reminiscent of a swan.

"Luna Crescent Power!"

"Triton Stellar Essence Transform!"

"Cygnus Stellar Essence Transform!"

The crystal pendant lost its angry glow as it rose into the air, splashing beams of argent light down on the teenager's thin body as he was lifted slightly off the ground. Night and moonlight soldified around him, forming a black bodysuit with shining silver shoulder accents, knee-high boots, elbow-length gloves, belt and circlet. The crescent then turned in the air and floated down, attaching itself, points up, to the center of the metal band. Sailor Luna then glided back to the pavement, his transformation sequence at an end.

With a sound like the roaring surf, aquamarine light flowed from the cold steel of the so-called Coral Trident, creating a whirlpool of shimmering radiance that evaporated away to leave behind a dark-blue bodysuit adorned with aquamarine shoulder accents, knee-high boots, elbow-length gloves and a belt. A gleaming silver circlet shone from beneath Sailor Triton's ebony bangs.

At the same time as the other two changed, an unearthly, ghostly aura surrounded the exotic woman, her white jacket becoming an elegantly billowing cloak apparently made out of snowy-white swan feathers. The phantom glow eddied around her lithe body a moment longer, then dematerialized, leaving Sailor Cygnus there in her Soldier outfit of pale-gray bodysuit with ghostly white shoulder accents, elbow-length gloves, belt, and knee-high boots. Like the others, an argent band adorned her brow.

The black-clad Senshi flicked his green eyes over to look at his female teammate. "Cygnus, when we get inside, phase out and and see if you can't surprise whatever it is causing the commotion."

She elegantly nodded, acknowledging the order.

Luna then glanced at the weapon-bearing warrior. "Triton, let's go find the others and see if the ladies need an assist."

"You got it," the blue-clad Soldier replied with a smile. Pointing at the glass wall of the not-to-distant food court with the Trident, he added, "Onward, fearless leader."

Rolling his eyes slightly, Sailor Luna turned and sprinted off in the direction of the mall. Maneuvering around the Dodge, the other two Soldiers followed close behind.

As they approached the glittering barrier that lead into the food court, Triton suddenly felt the center of his power shift slightly forward, toward the building--a sensation that felt like all the tides of the Universe were flowing to a single point. Easily readjusting his focus to compensate, the blue-suited warrior had only enough time to wonder what that was all about before he suddenly sensed everything shift again--fast, furious and heading their way. Acting on pure instinct, Triton turned and pulled Cygnus into a protective embrace, ducking down to the sidewalk with a shout. "Luna! Your shield! Now!"

The curly-haired brunette stopped dead in his tracks. Putting his trust in his friend's frantic words, he barked out his defensive command, "Luna Shield Reflect!" A glowing barrier of semi-solid moonlight sprung up around the three Senshi, forming a protective dome over them just before the glass edifice to which they were heading erupted in a fountain of twisted metal, razor-edged shards, smashing water and insectoid parts. The shield held under the onslaught, reflecting the force of the attack that hit it high into the air. Luna's green eyes grew just a bit wider as he watched the disembodied head of what looked like a possibly juvenile Hiver go bouncing off the glittering barrier up into the sky.

"Holy Neptune," the ebony-haired male Soldier muttered as he observed the watery fury wash away. He then glanced down at the black-haired woman in ghostly gray still in his arms.

Cygnus smiled up at him. "Thank you for the warning, Triton. It is most appreciated."

"Yeah, thanks bro'," Luna echoed, dismissing his power. Scanning around at the water-soaked sidewalk littered with glass, metal and Hiver parts, the circle that had been within the dome the only dry spot around, he added, "Just what the hell was that?"

Standing up and letting Cygnus go, the Trident-bearing Soldier faced the shattered wall. "Only one way to find out."

"I believe I shall phase out now," the feather-cloaked warrior said. "It will be a more effective surprise if I remain unobserved." Grabbing the corners of the Swan Cloak and fanning it out, adopting a bird-like dance pose, she whispered a mystic sequence, "Cygnus Wraith Form," and faded away.

In the wake of their teammate's disappearance, the pair of male Senshi leapt through the shattered wall, fully expecting more trouble immediately within. Instead, they found Polaris and Callisto--each woman looking rather worked over--staring up in shock at a black-uniformed female floating in mid-air, her golden-blond ponytail making a soft cloud that swirled around her caped shoulders.

The flame-haired Soldier was the first to say something, her voice an angry shout. "What? You nuts?"

"We're here to help people, not rack up the property damage," Polaris growled.

Stepping into the role of leader, Sailor Luna gazed up at the levitating woman. "Just who are you anyway?" Without shifting his gaze, he dropped his voice and inquired of the dark-haired man next to him, "She it?"

Triton shook his head. "No, it's further in, but she's definitely our water cannon."

The brunette Soldier frowned. That blast had really torn things up. "All right, let's have it! Who are you?"

Zoisite paused a second, taking stock of her situation. Being an airborne target between two pairs of uptight Senshi wasn't exactly the best place to be in the world, and she knew it, but her temper--still riding high after getting slammed with the pizza--got the better of the golden-haired Gemlord. She answered the black-suited warrior with a cold and haughty voice. "Who I am is of no concern to you." Flicking her violet-blue gaze back to the female Senshi, she added, "Nor am I here to protect those precious, pathetic humans of yours. Cosmos, it's only a wall, not the end of the Universe."

"Then you'd better protect your sorry ass," the red-suited Soldier spat. "Callisto Bronze--"

Sailor Luna winced, knowing what was coming next.

Just then, a series of piercing shrieks, each one progressively louder, filled the air, catching everyone's attention. As one, the quartet of Sailor Soldiers and the lone Gemlord looked at the source of the sound. From the narrow corridor that lead to the public restrooms emerged a pair of Hivers--one of which was wrapped up from head to ugly toe in layers of toilet paper and looked like a mummy from a B-grade movie--playing tug-of-war with a terrified woman. Held spread-eagled by a pair of clawed insect hands on each limb, the hapless shopper screeched again as the bugs chittered to one another and pulled even harder.

Galvanized by the immediate threat, Callisto quit her attack call, then shot the annoying woman floating in the air a look that said, Watch your ass or I'll kick it yet. Brandishing the eerie Mirror Dagger, the redhead leapt to the attack, slashing through the insect limbs imprisoning the helpless human. Simultaneously turning with a fluid motion, her long, pie-splattered hair swirling around her, Polaris tackled the other insect. The terrified shopper hit the floor, then scrambled to her feet and ran in a panic to the promise of safety outside, blowing past the male Soldiers without even a glance.

The bugs disintegrated into dark mist, swiftly dispatched by the Soldiers who'd attacked them.

Zoisite scowled in response to Callisto's whole attitude, then narrowed her large, violet-blue eyes angrily as she remembered that the insectoids were even worse than uppity Senshi. After all, the bugs had insulted her by wrecking her hair.

Triton and Luna watched the shopper flee, making sure that she got out okay. Then a resounding crash reverberated through the mall. Turning their attention back to the other end of the light and airy court--even moreso with the sudden free-flow ventilation made in the glass wall--they nodded at one another. There was trouble further in, possibly involving innocent people. The reckless stranger could wait. As the blue-clad Soldier sprinted off to investigate, Sailor Luna glared up at the golden-haired female. "Just do me a favor, if you can find it in that generous heart of yours to do so," he started, voice sarcastic. "Be part of the solution, not part of the problem."

The brunette Senshi's words cut, slashing through Zoisite's rage. In her mind, she could hear the wonderful, deep voice of her mentor echoing the admonishment, a stray memory from all those times he'd given her advice on how to fit in with the Elemental unit and perform her part of their duties. Her anger suddenly doused, she took a good, long look as first Callisto and Polaris, then the black-clad Senshi, rushed off in the direction of the commotion. For the first time since her arrival, the ebony-uniformed Gemlord's mind was clear enough to sense the dark energy of the Negaforce. The nasty, creepy bugs were from that cold, sunless reality. She growled deep in her throat. Not only are they horrid little crawlies who insulted me, they're Negaverse crawlies! That's it! They're Negadust! Gliding fluidly to the floor since she had no mental reference to use as a teleportational guide, she ran after the strangely-dressed Senshi, bounding as gracefully as a gazelle.

As they ran down the shop-lined corridor, they could hear more terrified yells and screams. Up ahead, the white-tiled floor was awash in a sea of colors; it wasn't until Sailor Triton reached the edge of the multi-colored area and felt an aqua-booted foot roll out from under him that he even realized what it was on the floor. Candy. A virtual lake of gumballs, jelly beans, lollipops and other hard candies in a whole rainbow of colors.

Seeing their blue-clad teammate flail around for a few seconds on the treacherous footing and hearing his cry of "Wh-whoaa-whoop-whoaaaaa!!", Callisto, Polaris and Luna instantly slowed down and began scrutinizing their own steps, each one trying not to smile despite the serious circumstances. After all, the sight was almost something straight out of a Saturday-morning cartoon.

Bringing up the rear of the warriors' hundred-yard-dash, Zoisite wasn't as kind. Snickering loudly at the black-haired male Senshi's plight while Triton did a frantic three-step on the rolling candy, the golden-blond Gemlord couldn't help but feel a bit disappointed when he was able to regain his footing. Too bad. Would've been fun watching him land on his ass. It's a wonder he didn't drop the pitchfork.

Around them was plenty of evidence as to how tricky the surface of the floor had become. Here and there lay crumpled on the white tiles a hapless shopper who'd taken the candy-littered floor too fast in their panic and had slipped and fallen hard. However, the Hivers had not been immune to the rainbow-colored danger either; the sight of a few of the bug-like monsters lying on their backs, all six limbs clawing the air as they attempted to right themselves, made the Soldiers smile after all.

None of them had much time to remain amused. Just about as soon as they arrived, and right after Sailor Triton kept himself from becoming another casualty of the sugary menace, a number of objects suddenly flashed through the air at them all--Senshi and Gemlord alike--light reflecting off the objects as they flew. Eyes wide as they realized just what the missiles were--the objects were being thrown at them from further down the concourse by bug-eyed monsters standing next to a cutlery shop on the other side of the candy-covered floor--the group of warriors scattered, the Soldiers instinctively hurrying to protect the fallen shoppers.

"Think they're trying to get a point across?" the Trident-bearing man quipped as he took up a protective stance over one of the humans while a steak knife hit the floor nearby and skittered, scattering candy as it slid.

"Looks like it," Sailor Luna shot back, hastily picking his way through the nasty footing toward another person. A knife came close to impaling a silver boot as it landed, forcing the black-clad warrior to jerk his foot away. More candy rolled as that blade also slid along the white tiles. "And doing a damned good job of it too," he muttered as the rest of the first volley of deadly implements hit the mall floor around them.

Triton didn't reply. Spotting a bug getting ready to heave a cleaver in the direction of one of the downed humans, he called out an attack, "Triton Laser Trident!" Giving off a low thrum of power, the six-foot-long weapon became wreathed in electric-blue laser light, giving the area an eerie azure glow. With an elegant throw, the neon trident sped through the air, burying its deadly points deep into the cleaver-wielding Hiver.

At the same time, Polaris ducked under the flight path of another insect-thrown blade. Noticing movement off to her right, she focused her gaze over there in time to see one of the fallen bugs just behind and to the left of Luna make its way back to its feet. As the Hiver turned, she realized that it was preparing to go after the black-clad leader of the Soldiers. Hastily kicking aside enough of the treacherous goodies to get a good, fast start, the white-clad woman ran a couple of steps, then executed a short leap, trusting in her balance and luck to not fall on her face. Extending her long legs just so, she hit the candy-coated ground perfectly, the rainbow-colored sweets rolling under her ice-blue boots just right to allow her momentum to continue on. Bracing herself as she "surfed" the multi-colored sea of goodies, she slammed into the bug threatening Luna's back with a tackle that would've made any roller-derby player proud. The Hiver flew through the air to crash into another one of its fellow monsters. Polaris grinned in triumph.

The curly-haired brunette spun at the sound, saw his teammate's smirk. "What the hell was that?"

The tall bearer of the Icewind Locket chuckled. "Just played bumper cars with a bug. And the bug lost."

Callisto grinned as well, watching as the pair of piled-up insects skid a bit further, scattering candy even more. Picking a bug-eyed target nearby, one that was too close to a human shopper attempting to regain his feet, the red-suited warrior started to swiftly but carefully make her way through the disaster zone when a sudden flash caught her attention. Focusing her dark-jade eyes on the movement, she had barely enough time to react. Grabbing the threat out of the air, she changed her grip on it and tossed it back, all in one fluid motion.

Not too far behind the fiery Senshi nimbly jogged Zoisite, who watched the graceful sight of Callisto's return toss with a look of admiration in her violet-blue eyes. "Impressive," the golden-blond Gemlord commented, observing that the blade so deftly caught by the flame-haired woman hit its target perfectly. The knife buried itself hilt-deep in one large, compound eye.

Though still rather irritated at the ponytailed female's attitude, the redhead couldn't help but glance back and smile slightly at the tone of appreciation that had crept into the blond's stridant voice. "It's all in the reflexes," Callisto replied, her attention centering back on her original target.

Zoisite was about to come back with a snippy comment when a group of glittering streaks forced her to focus on that. Eyes wide at first in surprise, they narrowed in anger as she reached out with her telekinetic power and halted the group of flying blades in mid-air. With a sweeping gesture of a white-gloved hand, she mentally launched the knives back at the insectoids that had thrown them at her. A series of sickening thuds echoed slightly in the open concourse of the mall intersection as the bugs went down.

Reaching the one downed human he'd been heading for, a somewhat elderly woman moaning softly that she couldn't get up, Sailor Luna knelt down next to her and smiled reassuringly. "Ma'am?" he asked, his voice friendly. "Are you all right?"

The little old lady gazed back up at the black-bodysuited Soldier, blinking slightly. "Hell, no, sonny, I'm not all right! I come to do a bit of shopping and the next thing I know there's bugs all over the place like ants at a picnic. Then I try to get out of the way from the crazy bug-eyed things, they bust the whole darn candy store, and I fall down. So here I am, stuck on the floor, with Captain America and his crew thumping things that look like they're outta a new-fangled sci-fi film."

"I'm sorry it's been a terrible day for you, ma'am," the curly-haired Soldier replied, keeping up with the amiable, low-key approach. "May I help you up?"

The elderly shopper smiled back, finding reassurance in Sailor Luna's manner in spite of the strange circumstances around them. "Please. That would be nice."

Off to the left, near the candy store responsible for the multi-colored mess, the innocent bystander behind Triton had recovered from her fall and was slowly getting back on her feet. Despite the guy in the freaky outfit tossing electrified pitchforks and the whole Twilight Zone atmosphere to the mall, the teen-aged customer felt safe in the shadow of the slightly stocky man in the superhero costume. After all, these just had to be more of the real-life comic-book people that everyone had been talking about lately. Eyes wide in admiration, the blond teen turned and watched as her blue-clad rescuer made a forceful gesture--like he was pulling something in. "Oh cool!" she gasped in a hushed whisper when the neon-blue Trident zipped through the air back to the black-haired hero's hand.

Spying the bugpile disengaging itself, the tall, white-clad Soldier braced herself, making sure of her aim. "Polaris Ice Shatter!" The temperature in the immediate area dropped a bit as the raven-haired woman's shard-laden attack slashed through first the air and then the pair of Hivers.

"Wicked!" the teen grinned as the bugs went up in smoke.

Having helped the elderly shopper to get shakily on her feet, Sailor Luna glanced over at the sound of the unfamiliar voice. Noticing that it was an adolescent shopper watching the conflict in amused interest, he decided to take a stab at getting both the girl and the old woman to safety at the same time. "Miss?" he called.

The teenager blinked, then put a hand on her chest, looking rather astounded that one of the superheroes was actually talking to her. "Who? Me?"

"Mind doing me a favor? Could you help this nice lady get to a safe place while the Soldiers and I take care of the rest of these bugs?" Luna couldn't help but mentally cross his fingers and hope for the best.

Getting over the shock of being addressed by the way cool dude in the black and silver, the grunge-dressed girl giggled. "Sure thing! Always glad to help out a superhero." Glancing at the floor, her expression swiftly changed to a frown. "But the candy sucks. I've fallen on my butt once already."

It didn't take long for Callisto to send her latest target to insect heaven, though the Hiver had managed to give the crimson-curled Soldier a good gash across the midsection in the process. Ignoring the pain and the blood welling up from the shallow slashes, Callisto kept an eye on the freaked-out shopper she'd been protecting as the nondescript man went running out of the sweet-trapped area.

Cosmos! Zoisite snarled to herself as the fleeing human almost ran her over in his haste to get out of the freakshow. Not my fault this is one of the few spots not booby-trapped. Nimbly jumping out of his way, she gracefully landed in another bare spot-- this one near the red-clad Senshi--determined to get to the rest of the Negabugs across the rainbow sea before they could pull more blades out of the cutlery shop.

The neon-blue Trident had already streaked through the air yet again, its black-haired wielder having called his ranged attack once more, taking out one of the Hivers by the time Zoisite had pulled together her concentration. The first faint pink petals of her teleportational field had appeared when an insectoid stepped out of a store, swinging something over its head in a clawed hand, then letting loose its attack.

Sailor Polaris watched, ice-blue eyes wide, as Tigger jumped the ponytailed stranger. A bra. Her mind froze on the thought as the small plush-toy of the Disney character bounced hard off the black-uniformed woman's head. The Hiver's using a bra like a sling . . .

The stuffed animal hit Zoisite with enough force to knock the slender Gemlord off balance, breaking her concentration. Startled, her teleport instantly aborted, and she planted a slender boot on the ground to catch herself. Through sheer ill fate, the candy didn't cooperate; Zoisite's foot rolled out from under her. Callisto couldn't help but laugh as the arrogant female fell flat on her pretty little face and slid a short distance, ending up a crumpled heap blanketed by her long black cape. Smooth move, the flame-haired Senshi mentally chuckled.

Though Sailor Triton was too involved in maintaining control over his attack to catch the spectacle, the other Soldiers saw the golden-haired stranger crash and burn. Luna winced again, feeling sorry for the blond woman's plight, then glanced back at the teen-aged girl gingerly making her way through the candy toward his location. Polaris, the pizza sauce still a stark splatter across the chest of her snow-white Soldierfuku, was also sympathetic; picking a path through the sweet hazard, she headed for the huddled figure of the feminine warrior, willing to offer some sort of assistance.

Still looking highly amused at the whole incident, Callisto leapt to the attack, determined to take out the bra-wielding Hiver.

The sprawled-out Gemlord picked herself up relatively slowly. Hands planted on the floor, her upper body supported by her arms while her legs remained lying along the white tiles, Zoisite looked up. Absolutely mortified, she didn't know whether to burst into tears or have a screaming hissy-fit. Unconsciously, she drew her power together, concentrating it, as she stared back at the bug-eyed monster that had seemingly come from nowhere. A piece of candy fell from where it had stuck to a cheek--there were other pieces still clinging here and there in her long, golden locks--as the temperamental Gemlord stood poised on the edge of a violent reaction of some sort.

As the gleaming Trident returned to his hand in answer to his mental call, Sailor Triton felt the focus of his power shift again, once more drawn toward the black-uniformed female. Easily making the adjustment, the black-haired Soldier shot his leader a worried look. "She's gonna blow," he warned.

Recalling the inundation that had shattered the food court wall, the curly-haired, brunette Senshi sighed. God, that's the last thing we need, Luna thought as he handed off the elderly shopper to the blond teen. Concentrating on his current task and hoping that his friend was wrong, the black-clad Soldier did his best to sound calm and reassuring. "There you go, ma'am," he said to the old woman. "This nice girl will help get you somewhere safe." Gazing at the grunge-dressed teen, who looked like she was having a major case of idol worship at the moment, he let a note of urgency creep into his quiet voice. "Get out of here as fast as you can. I've got the feeling it's gonna get really messy really quick."

"You got it, dude!" the girl grinned back, then began tugging gently on her new companion. Appearing rather relieved, the elderly shopper willingly went with her fellow mall patron.

Luna and Triton both then stared at the stranger, each one wondering if they'd have to subdue her as well in the interests of public safety. Both of them fervently wished that that wouldn't be the case.

Will Zoisite manage to keep her temper? Will the Sailor Soldiers help get things back under control? And just what's going on with Sailors Cygnus and Sirius? Find out by going to "Mall Madness: Part 2!"

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